Friday, August 21, 2015

The Flash #40

The End of the Road

Robert Venditti & Van Jensen Writers
Brett Booth Penciller
Norm Rapmund Inker
Andrew Dalhouse Colorist
Pat Brosseau Letterer
Booth, Rapmund & Dalhouse Cover
Amedeo Turturro Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Group Editor

It is fitting that my last review of The Flash has a cover filled with inconsistencies. As we saw last issue, the Flash is tied down flat on a stone tablet — not awkwardly straddling this wheel-thing. And all those people cheering in the background? Not there, either. I know Booth had to draw these covers far ahead of time, but more often than not, his covers either had nothing to do with the corresponding issue or were significantly different in some way. It really annoys me that he's so bad at this.

We resume our story right where we left off in Central City, with Overload electrocuting the future blue Flash. Patty, still nursing a sprained shoulder caused by Blue, finally believes Iris' theory that the Flash is a murderer. Iris, refreshingly, has decided that human lives are more important than salacious headlines, and she bravely stands up to Overload, telling him not to kill the innocent bystanders. Overload prepares to kill her, but luckily, Blue is able to recover quickly and punch Overload.

Blue explains to Overload that he was never able to catch him in his time, but by studying his victims, Blue was able to deduce how Overload's powers work and develop a suit to protect him from Overload in case he ever found him. However, Blue's suit has one weakness — the watch Patty gave him 20 years ago. Overload is able to hone in on that watch and cause it to explode, ripping apart Blue's arm. Patty rushes to Blue's side, and he finally tells her that he's the future version of Barry Allen.

Beyond space-time, in the savage world of the Speed Force, the current Flash wakes up to find himself tied to a big, flat stone, with Selkirk standing over him, wearing a stupid hooded robe. Flash shouts at Selkirk for going back on his word, and Selkirk explains that he will indeed help Flash regain his powers, and then he'll take them. Selkirk says he's known exactly how to escape the Speed Force for a long time, but was never able to without an avatar of the Speed Force, which is the Flash. Barry asks Selkirk about his people, and Selkirk says he lied to them that he'd share Flash's powers with each of them. He sent Spotter and Johnny (whose name is spelled differently in each issue) back to the Outpost to bring all the people to the mountain, but Selkirk plans to be long gone by the time they reach the temple. So Selkirk begins the ceremony, which is actually quite simple. He pokes Flash with a lightning-shaped dagger, and then says some magic words. Suddenly, Flash is consumed in lightning/energy.

In Central City, Blue and Patty sit and have a rather long conversation while Overload is trying to and possibly killing people. Patty sits and asks a bunch of questions, and Blue tries to justify his actions, saying he loves her so much and wanted a second chance, but now he know he betrayed her, blah, blah, blah. Finally, Patty tells him he can't undo the damage he caused, but he can still stop Overload, who is literally frying people to death while these two idiots have their heart-to-heart. And insensitive members of the crowd are tweeting pictures of the carnage with captions like, "Dude b trippin." I guess the people of Central City are quite used to things like this by now.

Blue says he hit Overload with everything he had (one simple punch), but it barely staggered him. Blue concludes that the WiFi towers are making Overload too powerful, so he has his suit generate a robotic arm for him, then proceeds to carry out his plan to disrupt Overload's signal. Blue first grabs a cellphone from a girl who was having the stupidest text conversation ever: "At that event at the park. Some weirdo in a top hat is fighting the Flash. CRAZY. Going to take a photo! The guy shoots energy OUT OF HIS HANDS. This is going to get me so many likes on Instagram! #superhero." And this girl's stupid friend responds with "LOLZ!" Before Blue grabs the phone and texts, "Borrowing your friend's phone. —Flash."

Blue continues running through the crowd, grabbing everybody's phones, tablets and laptops. He makes phone calls, sends texts, takes stupid selfies with his tongue sticking out, and does everything to crash the brand new wireless Internet network. In some inexplicable way, Blue's plan works, and the network not only crashes, but the massive WiFi towers somehow explode violently. Then another inexplicable thing happens. Overload completely returns to normal. He not only loses his powers, but can no longer hearing the buzzing of electronics in his head. Overload thanks Blue for taking away his pain, then wonders why Blue isn't trying to kill him anymore. As the police take Overload away, Blue dramatically falls to his knees and says, "I'm not that man anymore."

In the savage world of the Speed Force, Flash is screaming in agony as the lightning returns to his body. Selkirk says another magic word in an attempt to take the power, but he gets blasted by the lightning and is severely injured. The light show ends, and Flash is perfectly fine. Finding he has his powers back, he inspects Selkirk, who has half his face fried off. Flash says he would have helped Selkirk and his people, but he chooses not to, and rushes out of the Speed Force and back home, not noticing that Selkirk is still alive and does, in fact, have super speed.

In Central City, Blue approaches Patty, who now has her arm in a sling. He tells her he really wanted to kill Overload, and easily could have, but she helped him see how far he's fallen and remind him of the man he can be. But Patty is furious with him, saying he might have been the Flash once, but he's not him now and never will be. Patty sadly adds that the man she loved is gone. And right on cue, the man she loves returns in a sparkly explosion.

Flash is shocked to see his future self surrounded by chaos and carnage. Flash demands to know what Blue did to his city, and Blue says Flash can have it and Patty back. He says he's exhausted, and basically asks his younger self to kill him. Before Flash can wrap his mind around the insanity of the situation, Selkirk suddenly arrives, demanding to have the rest of Flash's power. Flash and Blue instantly decide to team up and take down Selkirk, but they initially have a hard time even hitting him. Apparently, Selkirk has honed his intellect through a lifetime of study, which means that he can think faster than both the Flashes.

So Flash decides to take the fight away from the city, and he drags Blue with him out to an empty field. Blue reminds Flash that the Speed Force won't allow two versions of them to exist in the same time, which is what caused the explosion that killed Wally and sent Flash to the Speed Force. Flash says he wants to cause an ever bigger explosion because Selkirk is a madman and can't go free. So Blue says he'll sacrifice himself to cause the explosion, which he does by ... I don't know ... pulling some energy from Flash?

However he did it, Blue created a massive burst of energy that sent Selkirk flying away, and left himself dying at the bottom of a crater. Flash regroups with his future self and offers to help absorb some of the energy. But Blue refuses his help, and with his last words, he tells his younger self that he finally found a clue about their mom's killer — Thawne. After uttering that mysterious, yet significant name, Blue fades away in a puff of smoke, leaving the correct, current Flash behind.

Later, Barry finally returns home to his girlfriend, Patty Spivot. However, Patty has packed her bags and is leaving. She tells Barry she knows he's the real one, but she can't look at his face without seeing the murderous monster his future self was. So, just like that, Patty walks away from Barry forever.

Elsewhere, we see that Selkirk is still alive, but paralyzed. But he's not alone. Someone picks him up and brings him to a man who introduces himself as Professor Zoom. Selkirk moans that all his studying was for nothing, but Zoom says he can still serve a purpose, and he promises to teach Selkirk all about the Speed Force.

The Good:

I had a hard time containing my disgust during the synopsis. It just sucks! This is a really horrible, terrible issue. I did like that Iris actually, almost, did something heroic for a change, but that was a very brief and fleeting moment. And I guess I should be excited to see the New 52 version of Eobard Thawne, but I can't follow this creative team for one more issue. Thankfully, I can use the dropping of the New 52 slogan as an excuse to end this blog.

The Bad:

Patty Spivot. Iris West had slowly been degrading, and both version of Barry Allen had devolved to something between a complete idiot and clinically insane. But through all that, Patty somehow remained the lone stalwart, reasonable, likable character on the title. Until this issue. Overload is killing people all around her, Blue has just demonstrated his murderous tendency and sprained her shoulder, but she still insists on running to his side and engaging in a lengthy heart-to-heart conversation with him. I know she did end the conversation by directing Blue to actually take down the bad guy, but she's the one who started the conversation and somehow felt it was appropriate to ask a whole bunch of questions. And then she welcomes back her true boyfriend by walking out on him. Actually, I'm not too made she did that. I just don't like her reasoning. She should have left Barry because of the way he treated her before the future Barry replaced him. Remember, the current Barry had turned into a huge jerk, looking for every excuse to ditch his girlfriend to hang out with a random 12-year-old boy. That's a much more valid reason than "you look like the murderer who impersonated you for a few days."

Overload fight. I hated how Blue punched Overload once, then later said he hit him with everything he's got. No that's not! You've trained under Lady Shiva and Batman! At least punch him twice! But more egregious: this was the stupidest way to beat a bad guy ever. I don't know a whole lot about WiFi, but I'm pretty sure what Blue did here is impossible. Even if he was somehow able to use everyone's devices to push the network past the absolute limit, the WiFi tower would not explode like that! The servers would crash, sure, but the physical structure would be fine. And how, exactly, did Blue crash the servers? They said these towers (even though we only ever see one) could provide WiFi for the entire city. We never see Blue leave the city to bring in more devices than it can handle. He just commandeers everyone's phones. But here's the thing: they were already using their phones on the WiFi. How could Blue possibly force more data through the phones than was already being used? Just because he can run at super speed doesn't mean that he can magically speed up electronics to somehow use an hour's worth of data in one second. I don't get it. And what was with all the people of Central City? They don't care about the people dying around them, nor are they very efficient texters. Instead of telling your friend that you're going to take a picture, how about just taking the picture first and sending it to your friend? Finally, how in the heck did the destruction of the WiFi tower(s) cure Overload? There are still a million electronic devices operating just fine. Only the WiFi was disabled.

Flash's escape from the Speed Force. When Selkirk took Flash to the mountain, they made a big deal of what a dangerous journey it was. They could only get three others to accompany them, and one of them died. But this issue opens with Selkirk apparently sending the two others away to get the rest of the people. Why? How did they go along with this plan? Selkirk says the whole village was in on a plan to take Flash's powers. So why didn't anyone else come to the mountain with them? Why were Spotter and Johnny/Johnnie so willing to leave Selkirk alone with the Flash? The writers needed to get rid of the extraneous characters, and they did so in a sloppy, nonsensical way. But what really, really gets me mad is what Barry does once he gets his powers back. He doesn't even bother to check if Selkirk is alive. And he makes no effort to save anyone else from the Speed Force. Yeah, they were all jerks who conspired against you, but that's only because they were desperate to get out of there. And regardless of what Savitar tried to do, he still deserves basic medical attention. The Flash I know and love would have rushed Selkirk back to the Outpost, had the doctor work on him, then do everything he can to pull everybody out of the Speed Force. He wouldn't try to bring them back to their original times, but living in Central City in the 2010s sure beats living in the Speed Force.

Selkirk fight. Selkirk has had super speed for roughly two minutes, and he can already think faster than both Flashes? In the New 52, Barry had quite a bit of trouble learning to think at super speed. He would be able to quickly analyze all possible outcomes, but it would freeze him in his footsteps. And this was after he'd been using his powers for about five years. OK, so Selkirk has been studying these powers for who knows how long. But can he still easily outclass the future blue Flash, who has been using his powers for more than 25 years? I think not! And don't you just love how convenient these Speed Force "explosions" have been? The Speed Force doesn't want two versions of Barry Allen to exist in the same time, but it'll sure take its sweet time trying to expel one of them. And how nice and clean is it that only undesirable, hard-to-explain future version of the characters fell victim to this — the future Wally and future Barry.

Ugh. I hate this issue so much! I did my best to give the new creative team a fair chance, but I did not like anything they did. I didn't like the stories they told, I didn't like how they portrayed the main characters, and I didn't like the art. Sure, there were lots of shiny energy moments, but there was no distinction between the Flash's energy and Overload's. Everything just felt shallow and superficial. I tried my best to objectively score each issue, I really did. During Manapul and Buccellato's run, I regularly handed out 9s and 10s. Under Venditti, Jensen and Booth, I never scored higher than a 5. And this one is my lowest score for a Flash issue.

Final score: 1 out of 10

We're done with The Flash, but we're not done with The New 52. Next time, we'll lighten things up a bit with Superman #40.

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